Lana Condor, Annie Murphy and Director Kirk DeMicco on Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken (Interview)

John Nguyen

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is DreamWorks Animation’s latest film featuring Lana Condor (Alita: Battle Angel) as the voice of Ruby, a teenage Kraken just trying to fit in high school despite her not being human. Her life starts to change when she begins to transform into a giant Kraken. Will she be an outcast from her small town of Oceanside, or will she become adored for her uniqueness?

Nerd Reactor had the chance to sit down and chat with Condor, Annie Murphy (Schitt’s Creek, Black Mirror), and director Kirk DeMicco about the film, their background in helping them with their role, and more.

“I think as an actor, at least for me, I pull from my own personal experiences when I do a character,” Condor tells Nerd Reactor. “But I’ve done a lot of high school roles. So I have cousins that are in high school and college and I pull from that. I’ve done a lot of young adult roles, so it’s a little bit slipping into that. Feels kind of like second nature.”

DreamWorks Animation is a studio that has worked on films including Kung Fu Panda, Shrek, Puss in Boots, and more. Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken marks the studio’s 44th theatrical film. Condor talks about her life working from gig to gig and how her DreamWorks project is important to her.

“I think after every project that I finish, I do have a sense of pride and accomplishment from each project,” Condor said. “Because to be completely honest, having a job in this industry is an honor. It’s not guaranteed. I work job for job, and so I think I do have a sense of pride after filming anything that I do, but I think specifically with Ruby Gillman, I was very, very honored to work with DreamWorks period. And then I was very honored to play such an endearing relatable character. And so to me, it’s a big career highlight for me, I would say.”

(from left) Chelsea Van Der Zee (Annie Murphy) and Ruby Gillman (Lana Condor) in DreamWorks Animation’s Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken, directed by Kirk DeMicco.

Annie Murphy voices Chelsea, a mermaid masquerading as a human at Oceanside High. As a child, she had dreams of wanting to become a mermaid.

“1,000%, like I remember my parents having this cottage in Canada,” Murphy recalls. “And I remember sitting on a rock at the cottage just like willing myself to turn into a mermaid every single summer. Like for days and days every single summer, and it didn’t work. But this is kind of like the second-best thing.”

Murphy teased about what audiences can expect from Chelsea.

“It was a surprise,” Murphy said. “That was one of the big shifts that kind of happened at the very end. And one of the rewrites is that I found out that I was even more than I thought I was in the script. And that was very cool and also a big challenge because my voice… I’m not a singer. I don’t have like a strong voice. And so to have to go to those deep, loud evil registers was a big challenge. And I have to say that after the first four hours that I recorded my voice, I called my friend and he was like, ‘Are you well, like, what’s going on?’ My voice was just shot.”

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken has been in the works for many years, and the film has seen some changes in the story as production went on.

“Well, this was an original pitch by some writers that had come into the studio about seven years ago,” Director Kirk DeMicco said. “And it was a story of the Gillman family and being a sea monster family living on land. And then as time goes through development, we start pulling focus. And as we started pulling focus, it was really Ruby’s story. And the excitement that generated around everyone at the studio was that this was the first time we can have a female, titled character in a DreamWorks film. And we wanted to give her a journey, a hero’s journey that we would have given any of the guys before. So the opportunity really came with building at scale. And that scope of this adventure of a girl who goes from just hiding as a teenager to being a Kaiju Princess at the end of the film.”

About Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken

“Sweet, awkward 16-year-old Ruby Gillman (Lana Condor, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before franchise) is desperate to fit in at Oceanside High, but she mostly just feels invisible. She’s math-tutoring her skater-boy crush (Jaboukie Young-White, Ralph Breaks the Internet), who only seems to admire her for her fractals, and she’s prevented from hanging out with the cool kids at the beach because her over-protective supermom (Toni Collette, Knives Out), has forbade Ruby from ever getting in the water.

But when she breaks her mom’s #1 rule, Ruby will discover that she is a direct descendant of the warrior Kraken queens and is destined to inherit the throne from her commanding grandmother (Jane Fonda), the Warrior Queen of the Seven Seas.

The Kraken are sworn to protect the oceans of the world against the vain, power-hungry mermaids who have been battling with the Kraken for eons. There’s one major, and immediate, problem with that: The school’s beautiful, popular new girl, Chelsea (Annie Murphy, Schitt’s Creek) just happens to be a mermaid. Ruby will ultimately need to embrace who she is and go big to protect those she loves most.”

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken also stars Colman Domingo (Fear the Walking Dead) as Ruby’s supportive dad, Sam Richardson (Ted Lasso) as Ruby’s enthusiastic uncle, and Blue Chapman (Council of Dads) as Ruby’s little brother, Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth), Nicole Byer (Nailed It!), Liza Koshy (Transformers: Rise of the Beasts), Ramona Young (Never Have I Ever), Eduardo Franco (Stranger Things), Echo Kellum (Arrow), and Emma Chamberlain (Anything Goes podcast).

The film is directed by Kirk DeMicco (Vivo, The Croods) from a script by Pam Brady (Lady Dynamite) and Brian C. Brown (Briarpatch) & Elliott DiGuiseppi (Lucy in the Sky). It’s produced by Kelly Cooney Cilella (Trolls World Tour, Trolls), with Faryn Pearl (The Croods: A New Age, Trolls World Tour) serving as co-director. The executive producer is Mike Mitchell (director of next year’s Kung Fu Panda 4) and the co-producer is Rachel Zusser (associate producer, The Croods: A New Age).